Here's the quick version of the story: on Thursday, I got an email about a piece of guitar gear I had for sale on Craig's List. The guy asked if I could come to him in downtown Dallas because he was a touring musician and didn't have a vehicle to meet me anywhere. My first reaction was, "Ugh, I don't want to drive to Dallas." My second reaction was, "Hmmm..."
Without knowing who he was, what band he played for or where he was playing, I told him I was a photographer, sent him a link to this site and asked if I could take photos at the show. He was all for it and put me on the guest list. Zak turned out to be the guitar player for Ed Kowalczyk (Co-Wall-Check), former frontman of the band LIVE. I can't say I'm a fan, but I recognize some of their songs from the radio.
I took off work a little early to get to soundcheck at 5:30. It's somewhat embarrassing, but I think I drove around House of Blues at least three times before I finally found parking. The paid lot next the venue was blocked off and I didn't have any quarters for the meters. I even considered just going home. Congenital lameness is an unfortunate disease, but I can sometimes overcome it. I finally parked in a lot beneath an overpass and went to get my ticket at will-call. No one had brought them the guest list yet, but they told me to check back in thirty minutes.
DISCLAIMER: On behalf of House of Blues, Inc., I strongly discourage the following behavior.
The HOB restaurant was open, so I went inside. I briefly considered eating or sidling up to the bar, but I didn't feel like doing either. I didn't have Zak's phone number, but I thought I might go looking for him (a quick Google search gave me an idea of what he looked like). Walking through the gift shop, I spotted the Cambridge Room in the back corner, one of the smaller rooms in House of Blues where the Ed Kowalczyk show was going to be. No one was around, so I walked in. A couple sound guys were messing with microphones, but the room was otherwise empty.
After standing around for a couple minutes, waiting to get kicked out, a couple people who looked like they worked there walked in. One of them said something about the green room and left through the double doors to the left of the stage. Thinking Zak might be waiting back there, I followed at a safe distance.
The green room was empty, but I heard music farther down the corridor. Down a few steps and through a door, I found some musicians sound checking on the main stage. At this point, I really expected to get kicked out any second, so I got out my camera. At least I could get a few shots before some bouncer dragged me out in a headlock.
A few different stage hands walked by while I was shooting. I smiled and nodded, trying to make it seem like I was supposed to be there. They smiled and nodded back and kept walking. After a few minutes, I decided to stop pressing my luck and went back to the Cambridge Room.
When I came back in, an employee who hadn't been there before was standing in the back by the bar. "Where'd you come from?" "Oh, I've just been wandering around," I said and quickly tried to change the subject. "I'm looking Zak, one of the musicians – do you know where he is?"
He pointed to the sound guy, Mike, and said that he was the only person from the band who was there at the moment. I introduced myself to Mike who said, "Oh, okay. You've got some time to kill, but feel free to hang out." Sweet. I picked a seat along the wall and waited while the sound guys tried to get the reverb working on the microphones.
Ed and Zak came in a half hour or so later. I'd left the gear I was selling in my car, so after introducing myself to Zak, we decided to handle the deal later. I sat back down and took a few photos during sound check. A couple women were escorted in at one point. I never learned exactly how they'd come to be there, but it was one of their birthdays. I got the feeling that they had maybe won a contest or something to be there. They had this kind of hushed awe or nervousness about being there. I had just walked in.
After running through a few songs, the guys said 'hi' to the two women and left to get something to eat, Zak once again suggesting we do the Craig's List deal a little later. They went out the back, but I left through the front doors. Just outside the Cambridge Room, there was already a line of people waiting to get in. It strikes me now how strange that was – it was still two hours until showtime, and the room was standing room only; no seats to claim by getting there early. Whatever makes people happy, I guess.
I walked around outside for a little while but didn't see anything interesting and headed back to will-call for my ticket. They now had the guest list, but I wasn't on it. Thankfully, Zak had given me his number, and a few texts later, I was in.
Not being familiar with the band LIVE, it took me a while to understand that this show and tour were for the 20th anniversary of the album Throwing Copper. Ed and Zak, the only musicians on stage, were going to play the album through, in order, to backing tracks and videos.
As might be expected with a 20-year-old album, the crowd seemed to range from late 30s to early 50s. Online, it had said that the show was sold-out, and that appeared to be the case. By the time the show started, it was packed. Jammed up against the side wall, I met a married couple who were interested in my conspicuously sized camera. Had I been hired by the club or was I just an overzealous fan? I was glad to be able to say I knew someone in the band.
When the show got started, I had my super-wide lens mounted to get some crowd shots. But it was only part-way through the first song when a security guy in a yellow shirt tapped me on the shoulder. "Do you have a photo pass?"
I didn't. And that was that. It turns out that Zak actually had put me down to get one, but I didn't know I needed it and therefore didn't ask. So after all that, I didn't get to shoot the show, and I didn't sell my gear. I stayed for a couple more songs, but LIVE isn't really my thing. And being stuck in a back corner with a heavy backpack is even less my thing. Still, I had a good time, all things considered. It was certainly more of an adventure than my Friday night would've been otherwise.
Even before I was a photographer, I recognized that cameras are this amazing pass to do things you couldn't otherwise get away with. Why is that guy lying on the sidewalk? Oh, he's got a camera. What's that guy doing backstage? Oh, he's a photographer. Trespassing? Oh, sorry, I was just taking pictures.
I'm not a bold person by nature, but I'm learning by degrees. And Friday's experience only served to reinforce the possibly dangerous axiom that not all closed doors are locked. I'm all for breaking rules and getting into trouble as long as it's not immoral or illegal. "Normal" is just so incredibly boring, you see. And it's everywhere all the time.
I hesitate to call this an adventure. I'm not sure I've really had one yet. But I'm working on it.